The White House Kitchen and Garden for The Chew

Published on February 19th, 2012

A few weeks ago I got the chance of a lifetime. The Chew sent me to meet White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford. I really didn’t know what to expect. Before I got a chance to Google her and check out her background, I imagined her to be this mid fifties White guy with a long career of turning out meals for soldiers from enlisted to general. Kind of like a military super hero who special power is making an awesome bœuf bourguignon.

She was so different, glamorous, down to earth and a Filipina! She has served as White House chef for 17 years and has prepared meals for dignitaries from every continent. My sister-in-law Grace is Filipina and is quite a chef herself whipping up all sorts of delicious things including the native Lumpia and Adobo Pork, so I was sure that I would LOVE Cris.

Her arm was in a sling, she had been walking the dog (I wondered if she meant her dog or THE dog), and she slipped on ice and broke her wrist. It sounded like a nightmare, broken in a few places with pins holding it all together. But she was still working in the kitchen!

While we were making a delcious, and nutritious Garden Vegetable Pizza, one of the recipes for First Lady, Michelle Obama’s Kids Get Cooking Day. We talked about how she first got the job, what the First Families favorite snacks are and what veggies do they grow in their garden. It was unbelievable.

Here is a slideshow of my day!

And here is the recipe for the Pizza we made, easy and delicious!

Garden Vegetable Pizza

“This could be a fun weekend project—make 3 pizzas and freeze the other 2 for the rest of the week. Making dough is fun for kids, and creates great quality time with your family. For a busy night, you can also use store-bought dough or sauce. Also, the veggies are just suggestions. You can use whatever is seasonal or your kids’ favorites. Try taking your kids grocery shopping and letting them pick out any 3 veggies they want—they’ll be even more invested in the experience and may be open to trying new things.”—White House Chef Cris Comerford

Recipe Hints:

If baking a single pizza, prep only 1/3 of the toppings and wrap remaining 2 crusts separately in plastic wrap. Keep chilled in the fridge for 1 day. Or wrap tightly in foil (over plastic wrap) and freeze up to 1 month.
Use a mandoline or sharp knife to slice the vegetables as thin as possible.
Be careful when blending the hot tomato sauce. Puree in batches, filling the blender no more than half full.
If you have a pizza stone, use it! You’ll get a crispier crust. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Reheat any leftover slices on a baking sheet in a 350ºF oven until hot, about 10 minutes.

Dough:

1 packet (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 c whole wheat flour
½ c semolina flour
1 2/3–2 c whole wheat white flour
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sauce:

2 Tbsp olive oil
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 sm onion, finely chopped
1 sprig thyme
1 can (28 oz) peeled whole tomatoes in puree
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf

Toppings (choose whichever you’d like):

3/4 c thinly sliced zucchini (about 1 sm or 5 oz)
3/4 c thinly sliced yellow squash (about 1 sm or 5 oz)
1 c thinly sliced red bell pepper (about 1 sm or 6 oz)
1 c thinly sliced fennel (1/2 sm bulb)
1 c thinly sliced eggplant (about 6 oz)
½ c thinly sliced small mushrooms (about 6)
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 tsp freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 pkg (8 oz each) shredded part-skim mozzarella (4 c)
1 c sliced mixed cherry or grape tomatoes (about 12)
6 Tbsp shredded Parmesan

1. Prepare dough: Mix yeast and sugar into 1 cup lukewarm water in small bowl. Let bloom for a few minutes.

2. Whisk together whole wheat flour, semolina flour, 1 2/3 cup of the whole wheat white flour, and 1 tsp sea salt.
Put onto clean work surface and make a well in the center. Pour yeast mixture and oil into well. Using a fork or your fingers, gradually bring in the flour around the sides to the center well. Once it starts to combine, work the dough with your hands (using some of remaining 1/3 cup whole wheat white flour if dough becomes too sticky) and knead until it becomes smooth and springy, about 5 minutes.

3. Put dough in oiled bowl and cover with damp cloth or plastic wrap. Leave in a warmer area of your kitchen and let rise until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

4. Punch dough in bowl to push some air out. Transfer dough to flour-dusted work surface. Divide into 3 balls. Roll out each ball into a crust about 1/8 to ¼”-thick (13″ diameter) and place between flour-dusted sheets of parchment on a tray until ready to use.

5. Make sauce: Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic, onion, and thyme and cook, stirring, until fragrant and onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes (with puree), tomato paste, and bay leaf. Simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes with a spoon, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Discard thyme sprig and bay leaf. Transfer to blender and carefully puree until smooth. Set aside. (Makes about 2 ½ cups).

6. Heat oven to 450ºF.

7. Prepare toppings: Toss together vegetables (except cherry tomatoes), oil, lemon zest, garlic, and thyme in bowl. Season with sea salt and pepper.

8. Turn a heavy-duty half-sheet pan or a large baking sheet upside down and coat lightly coat with olive oil spray. Transfer pizza crust carefully to pan and roll up edges slightly. Spread about 3/4 cup of the sauce onto crust and sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella. Arrange one-third (about 2 cups) of the vegetables evenly on top of the cheese. Top with 1/3 cup each of the cherry tomatoes and the remaining mozzarella. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp of the Parmesan. Bake on bottom rack until crust is golden brown and crisp and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. If making all 3 pizzas, repeat process with remaining dough, sauce, cheese, and vegetables.

Nutrition

(per serving) 310 cal, 16 g pro, 35 g carb, 6 g fiber, 12 g fat, 5 g sat fat, 529 mg sodium

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